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From Jiggers to Blind Elephants

From Jiggers to Blind Elephants

by Sharon Johnson Pond
"What in the world is a jigger?" "A Nairobi what?" "Are there any lions in Africa?" "How many snakes can one person deal with before freaking out?" "Which is smarter, an author or a parrot?" "How full of praise to God can a person's heart be after experiencing the wonders of African nature?" From Jiggers to Blind Elephants answers these questions and more, although


"What in the world is a jigger?" "A Nairobi what?" "Are there any lions in Africa?" "How many snakes can one person deal with before freaking out?" "Which is smarter, an author or a parrot?" "How full of praise to God can a person's heart be after experiencing the wonders of African nature?" From Jiggers to Blind Elephants answers these questions and more, although admittedly not in a scientific manner, showing the delight of the author and her family in the beauties and wonders of Africa's wildlife. This book is for animal lovers as well as those fascinated by life in another place, another culture.

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By Sharon Johnson Pond


Copyright © 2010 Sharon Johnson Pond
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4490-4975-1

Chapter One


All you have made will praise you, O Lord ... Psalm 145:10

What Are "Jiggers" Anyway?

In the Central African country of Rwanda, we had a friend who was an agricultural evangelist. That means that as he taught people how to grow more and better crops and how to take good care of farm animals, he also told them about Jesus.

Our friend once told us about a very small type of flea which gets into crops and lays eggs. When the eggs hatch, you guessed it, whatever vegetable in which the eggs are hatched will be destroyed.

Our friend ended his story by saying, "At the time, I said to myself, 'I sure am glad that this bug does not get into humans!' Then I found out about 'jiggers'!"

Jiggers are very tiny 'bugs' that live in the soil. When one gets on your body, (almost always in your toes, but I have seen one in someone's finger) the female buries herself into your skin. Then she lays eggs.

Soon your toes, or other body parts, start itching like crazy. When you look to see what is itching, you see a small black spot on your skin, and there is a raised blister all around the black spot.

That's when you yell, "Oh, no! I have a jigger! Somebody come and get this thing out of me!"

The First Jigger In Our Family

Marcus, who was ten years old at the time, had the honor of getting the family's first jigger. It didn't make it any easier that we were going on vacation when we found that he had one in his toe.

We had never removed a jigger before, and although we knew what they were, we didn't know what to do to get it out of Marcus' foot.

We were going on vacation with another missionary family and our mission nurse, who wasn't due to arrive until the following morning. Since we knew that she knew how to deal with jiggers, we decided to wait until she came, so that she could remove it. (We were just going to let Marcus itch.)

Marcus wasn't thrilled about having to spend the night with a bug in his foot, but he agreed to wait for the nurse. I think he agreed because it was a better solution than letting his parents dig around in his toe.

He survived the night, and the nurse did arrive early the next morning.

She took one look at Marcus' toe and said, "Yep, that's a jigger, alright. Why didn't you take it out?"

We told her that we didn't know how.

She told us, "Watch and learn, because this will not be the last jigger you see while you are in Africa!"

She got a needle, sterile gauze, alcohol, peroxide, and boiling water. With all that equipment and medicine, Marcus was feeling like the nurse may be getting ready to remove his whole toe.

She sterilized the needle, swabbed Marcus' toe with alcohol, and started to 'operate'.

Suddenly she stopped and exclaimed, "Look at this!"

What she had seen was a thin red streak running from his toe, up his foot, right up his leg, and almost to his knee!

The nurse told us, "Do you know what this means? This means blood poisoning! If we had waited much longer to get this out, Marcus would have been in serious trouble!"

I couldn't have felt much worse. I felt like the worst mother who ever lived.

The nurse went on to say, "Watch me now, so that you can get these things out yourselves and not wait so long next time! Next time find somebody, anybody, to get the jigger out!"

She held Marcus' toe and dug the jigger out, making sure that she didn't break the egg sack because if she had, Marcus would have had many, many jigger babies in his toe.

He told us that it didn't hurt at all and the nurse explained that it didn't hurt because the female jigger injects a numbing juice into the area where she lays her eggs.

Finally Marcus said, "Ouch!" and the nurse told us that when you can feel the needle, you have gotten all of the jigger "mess" out.

She drenched the hole with peroxide and covered the toe with gauze and tape.

In just a couple of hours, the red streak disappeared from Marcus' leg and foot, and we had survived our first jigger adventure!

My Turn!

We had been told never to wear open toe shoes while we were in Africa because of jiggers. However, I am very stubborn, and I never wore any shoes except sandals the entire eight years we were there, and I only got one jigger.

It seems that there are some people who, no matter what they do to prevent it, get jiggers on a regular basis, and some, like me, who do not. The first group is not very happy with the second group, especially when a member of the first group is dealing with a jigger.

I went the first three years we were in Africa, wearing sandals and not getting jiggers.

When we returned to Africa, after a stateside assignment of nine months, we went back to Rwanda for a while, but soon moved to Burundi.

Our brand new house was on property where no one had ever lived. That meant jigger territory, and we were fresh meat for them!

Marcus was at boarding school in Kenya, and John was away, preaching at an outschool, or bush church in the hills. I was alone in our new house, in the dark, relaxing on the sofa, watching a video.

My big toe started itching. I scratched it with my other foot. It itched again, and I scratched again. It kept itching and I kept scratching.

I am allergic to regular flea bites, and I thought to myself, This itches so badly that I must have been bitten by a flea.

Then a terrible thought occurred to me. I turned on the lights and inspected my toe. Sure enough, there was the dreaded black spot on my big toe. My first jigger!

I almost cried. I thought, Here I am, all alone, everybody is gone, and I get a jigger! What horrible timing!

I had removed jiggers from John's feet before, because although he always wore shoes and socks, he was of the group of people who regularly attracted jiggers. I think he would have enjoyed removing this one from my foot, even though he knows that payback is wrong.

As I said, I had removed jiggers from John's feet, and one from Marcus' foot, but never my own, since this was the first one I ever had.

After my short pity party, I straightened up and thought, For goodness sake! I have been in Africa four years now. I have been through much worse than this. I can remove a little jigger from my own foot! I'm not a baby!

I got gauze, alcohol, needle, peroxide, bandaging tape, and boiling water ready, scratching the jigger spot the entire time. (They REALLY itch!)

I boiled the needle and started after the itchy offender. It was very simple. Marcus had been right, there was no feeling around the area. I removed the jigger and the egg sack and got rid of them. I slathered the area with peroxide and bandaged the large hole it left in my toe. The relief from itching was wonderful.

To my surprise, when I took the bandage off my toe the next day, the hole was almost healed from the inside outward. It was amazing how fast it closed once the jigger was removed.

That was my one and only jigger and I thank God that I didn't have any more.

I did continue to remove jiggers from John's feet, although we only had one other small jigger adventure, and once again, it happened to Marcus.

After we returned to the States, we were at my brother's house. Marcus' toe was itching terribly, and he and I looked at each other and together said, "Oh, no!"

My brother asked what was wrong and while Marcus took off his shoe I told my brother, "I think that Marcus has a jigger in his foot."

My brother, Lee, could not understand our reaction because he thought that we were saying 'chigger' and he replied, "Well, just take care of it."

I told him what I needed to get rid of the little pest, and he said, "You need all of that just to get rid of a chigger?"

I explained to him that it was not a 'chigger' and he said, "I have GOT to see you do this operation!"

Lee went to get all the items that I needed while Marcus washed his foot. I had an audience while I removed the jigger, and Lee was very impressed with my operating skills.

That was the last problem we had with jiggers, and we were very careful to totally get rid of that last jigger and egg sack because:


Chapter Two


... teeming with creatures beyond number - living things both large and small. Psalm 104:25.

"Okay, What Are 'Nairobi Eyes'?"

I would like to remind you right now that this is not a scientific book about bugs or any other creatures. It is just a group of stories about the creatures we met, saw, and played with in Africa.

I don't know exactly what a Nairobi Eye is, although once an entomologist (I call them 'bugologists') told me that it is a type of tiny beetle. I can describe one for you, though.

Imagine a very small, slim bug that is pointed on both ends, and smaller in the middle. It is about the size of an earwig, and even looks a little like one, except the Nairobi Eye is colored with red and black stripes.

Nairobi Eyes (to be referred to as just 'Eyes' from now on because I am too lazy to keep saying "Nairobi Eyes") are actually kind of pretty. They come during the rainy season, and one time the front of our house was so covered with them, it looked like the bricks were crawling.

When you mess with an Eye, and you do not want to mess with an Eye, the back half will rise up like a scorpion's tail, as if to sting you. In this way, the eye is telling you to leave him/her alone, but this is not a danger because he/she does not have any poison in his/her tail.

The danger comes when you squash an Eye to get it off of you. The inside juices of an Eye are a type of acid and I have a small scar beside my left thumb where I tried to flick one off my hand, flicked a little too hard, and ended up with a dead Eye. Before I could wash it off, the acidic juices had eaten a tiny hole in my skin, and although it healed quickly, it left a small scar.

I once saw a night watchman who had fallen asleep and had Eyes get on his face. When he woke up, he hurriedly brushed them off of him, killing some. He carries small scars all over his face where the acid burned him.

When I asked how the Nairobi Eye got its name, I was told that they were nicknamed by the British during colonial days in Kenya, when they first found out how nasty Eyes could be if not left alone. I heard that the "Eye" part of the nickname came from the fact that if the inside acid juice of an Eye got into a person's eyes, it could blind that person.

So, what have we learned so far?


Chapter Three


Ants are creatures of little strength, yet, they store up their food in the summer. Proverbs 30:25.

African Ants - Rwanda

I know about ants, or at least I thought I did before going to Africa. Growing up, we lived in a house that, I believe, was built on a huge ant city. Although my mother did everything she knew how to do, little black ants got into everything that was not put into the refrigerator.

One night, when I was a teenager, I had left a little bit of juice in a glass on the kitchen counter. I woke in the middle of the night, very thirsty and remembered the juice. I remembered the juice, but didn't remember the ants.

You guessed it! I could see the glass on the counter because of the street light shining through the window curtains, but there wasn't enough light to see anything alive.

I started drinking the juice, and I felt things crawling over my mouth, nose, tongue, and chin.

I am very glad that I was next to the sink because I started spitting and wiping, spitting and wiping. I'm not sure how many ants I swallowed that night, but from that time on, I turned on lights before eating or drinking anything.

As I said, I thought I knew about ants, but I didn't know anything about African ants!

There were always a few ants in all of the places where we lived in Africa, but like Nairobi Eyes, the armies of ants, called siafu in Swahili, came with the rains.

We saw our first siafu when we were living in Rwanda. We lived in a duplex beside another missionary family. The mom of the family got up while it was still dark, and went to be excused.

While in the bathroom, in the dark, (we really should learn to turn on lights!) she felt a small, but stinging bite. Then she felt another one, and another, and another.

She did turn on the lights then, and saw black ants everywhere in the bathroom. She got rid of those ants, checked the rest of the house, which was ant free, but found that more ants were coming in under the back door.

The missionary mom got rid of those also, and waking her husband, went out into the yard and saw the siafu. A long, straight line of millions of ants were 'marching' through our yard. It was the stray ants which were leaving the line and getting into her house.

It was the strays that had to be gotten rid of; the main body of ants was not bothering anything. The ants just wanted to pass through our yard.

The missionary mom and dad sprayed and stepped on all the strays that they could, but there were too many of them.

John heard the noise next door, and went to see what was going on. That was when he saw his first siafu, millions and millions of ants forming a line marching straight through our yard.

Also, by this time, John had gotten his first African ant bite. He knew that the only way to keep the stray ants from entering the duplex was to boil water and pour it all around the entrances of the two houses of the duplex. John and the others boiled gallons of water and poured it on every side of the duplex, wherever ants were straying from the line.

John helped the other missionaries get rid of the stray ants, and get the ants off of our dogs, who were rolling on the grass trying to remove the biting, stinging insects from their coats.

Finally the siafu finished marching through our yard and John and our neighbors finished taking care of the strays.

I am telling you this from their point of view, because Marcus and I slept through the entire event!

I did see the welts where the stray ants had bitten John and our neighbors, though, and I saw the hundreds of dead ants that had tried to get into the duplex.

However, the weirdest thing that I saw was the deep groove running through the entire length of our double yard. It had been made by millions of marching ants of the siafu.

African Ants - Brackenhurst I

Although I did not see the siafu marching through our yard in Rwanda, I did see one with my own eyes.

There was a war going on, and we had been evacuated, or sent out of Burundi, to stay in Kenya until it was safe to return to our work. We were living at a beautiful conference center outside of the capital city of Nairobi (where Nairobi Eyes were nicknamed). The center, called Brackenhurst, was also a Swahili language school for missionaries, and a seminary for Kenyan pastors. I loved the beautiful conference center and its surroundings.

We had eaten in the dining hall that evening and had remained to talk to some other missionary friends after dinner, so it was fairly dark when we walked back up the hill to the small cottage where we were staying.

There wasn't much more than the African moon to give us light so that we would not fall down the hill we were climbing, and it was pretty dark.

(Many of my adventures happen in darkness, which should help to remind me that I need to keep "walking in the Light" - Jesus' light!)

When we were almost at the top of the hill, John grabbed my arm and shouted, "Stop!"

I stopped! Then I saw my first siafu and was glad that I hadn't seen the one before, the one that had marched through our yard.

It is a scary sight to see millions and millions of ants going along, climbing over one another if the one in front goes too slowly or stops for some reason. There had already been so many ants passing that they had worn a groove or depression in the ground about two inches deep and six inches across.

We just stood, watching the ants, wondering how many millions there were and what their purpose was.

As I stood there watching the ants go by, I thought about how God made all of them and that He had a special purpose for the siafu, just as He has a special purpose for each of us.


Excerpted from FROM JIGGERS TO BLIND ELEPHANTS by Sharon Johnson Pond Copyright © 2010 by Sharon Johnson Pond . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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